WASHINGTON (Fwrd Axis) — With formidable challenges both at home and abroad, President Joe Biden addressed a worried nation on Tuesday in his first State of the Union address during a tense moment for his administration.
Just over a year after taking office, the President is still struggling to address key issues at home that has seen his approval rating drop to the low 40s while the eyes of the world are on Ukraine. Biden’s party is increasingly worried about their chances in the midterm elections this year and Tuesday night was an effort to reset and remind Americans what his administration has done in its first year.
Here are four main takeaways from Biden’s first State of the Union address:
Rebuking Putin in front of the world
Biden began his address by calling out Russian President Vladimir Putin by name, which earned rare bipartisan support in the House chamber. The President made news by announcing that Russian airlines would be banned from U.S. airspace, joining other allies in the same position.
The President made a note to mention Russia’s currency, the ruble, had already lost nearly a third of its value since sanctions were first announced.
“Six days ago, Russia’s Vladimir Putin sought to shake the foundations of the free world thinking he could make it bend to his menacing ways. But he badly miscalculated,” Biden said. “He thought he could roll into Ukraine and the world would rollover. Instead, he met a wall of strength he never imagined or anticipated: the Ukrainian people.”
"Putin is now isolated from the world more than he has ever been … he has no idea what's coming." President Biden addresses the Ukraine crisis, saying the US will close off its air space to Russian flights and seek to seize the assets of Russian oligarchs. #SOTU pic.twitter.com/POC5HYH3PG
— CNN (@CNN) March 2, 2022
During his campaign for President, Biden ran on the promise of making America respected on the world stage again, and Tuesday night he reminded Americans of that promise, mentioning allies are all united with America in the fight against Russia.
“In the battle between democracy and autocracies, democracies are rising to the moment and the world is clearly choosing the side of peace and security. This is the real test. To all Americans, I will be honest with you, as I’ve always promised. A Russian dictator, invading a foreign country, has cost around the world. He has no idea what’s coming.”
Calming inflation worries
One of the top concerns for most Americans is rising inflation, which has taken away any positive news on the economy in Biden’s first year. The President spent the majority of his speech talking about his stalled agenda and parts of his Build Back Better plan, despite not saying that term exactly.
Biden sympathized with Americans, saying he knows what it is like to struggle to pay for items when he was growing up. His plan to fight high inflation is manufacturing more goods in America or lowering the cost of drugs and making childcare more affordable.
President Biden pitched a plan to increase wages and lower inflation in his #SOTU speech calling for companies to make more cars and semiconductors in the U.S. so Americans would be less reliant on imports https://t.co/hlI5AXS2D4 pic.twitter.com/4ar1bCSRDj
— Reuters (@Reuters) March 2, 2022
“Too many families are struggling to keep up with the bills. Inflation is robbing them of the gains they might otherwise feel. I get it. That’s why my top priority is getting prices under control,” he said.
“When we use taxpayer’s dollars to rebuild America, we’re going to do it by buying American. Buying American products. Support America jobs.”
Shifting message on Covid-19
Prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the White House had hoped to unveil a new plan to fight Covid-19 but that has now been pushed to Wednesday. At Tuesday’s State of the Union, Biden managed to emphasize the new approach to the American people.
With much of the crowd maskless for the first time in nearly two years, it is clear much of the country is ready to move on from the pandemic.
“I know you’re tired, frustrated, and exhausted,” Biden said. “Tonight I can say we are moving forward safely, back to more normal routines.”
President Biden described his Covid plan during his #SOTU speech, including launching a new “test to treat” initiative for free antiviral pills, preparing for new variants, ending shutdowns of schools and businesses, and continuing to vaccinate people. https://t.co/jKhPeFCq6R pic.twitter.com/2H4HRNleps
— The New York Times (@nytimes) March 2, 2022
However, Covid-19 has not gone away. Cases and infections are going down with an average of 1,800 Americans still dying each day as of February 28. They are poised to drop more as long as there are not more mutations to the virus itself.
Biden announced a new new “test to treat” program, which will see individuals who test positive at a pharmacy get antiviral pills “on the spot” free of charge.
Touting accomplishments ahead of midterms
Biden used the primetime moment to tout his accomplishments, relating to the American people what the Democrats stand for this year.
It is not evident how much Biden’s words will have on voters this year as he came into Tuesday’s speech with near-record low approval ratings and a domestic agenda up in the air. He touted bills he passed like the American Rescue Plan and the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
“We’re done talking about infrastructure weeks. We’re now talking about an infrastructure decade,” Biden said in a knock on former President Donald Trump.
Watch: President Biden won bipartisan applause during his first State of the Union address for saying the solution to protecting communities is not to defund the police, but to “fund the police” with resources and training #SOTU2022 https://t.co/jy4N0ipOt9 pic.twitter.com/jjJ3KRlKx6
— TIME (@TIME) March 2, 2022
He announced 65,000 miles of highway and 1,500 bridges will begin repairs this year under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
On the Supreme Court, Biden took a moment to honor the retiring Stephen Breyer and tout his nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson, who would become the first Black woman to be on the court.
He addressed the spike in crime, calling for new gun laws while making it clear it is not time to defund the police, something Republican lawmakers have tried to accuse Democrats of wanting to do.
“We should all agree the answer is not to defund the police. It’s to fund the police,” Biden said.